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ARC: SURGE IN PUBLIC VIOLENCE

Retailers must strike a delicate balance of safety and commerce

Public Places Security

Public places such as retail stores, classrooms and office buildings walk a fine line to provide the right amount of security to avoid a violent attack.

As best practices to avoid such risks evolve, risk managers rely on traditional protocols to mitigate threats of violence at their locations.

In particular, retailers must strike a delicate balance of providing enough security and precrisis management protocols without scaring patrons away.

Security and safety efforts depend on location, said a risk manager at a national discount retailer who did not want to be named.

“Some of the areas where crime is higher, we may have security officers located within the store,” the risk manager said.

“If it's a high-shrink store, we'll have more cameras in our stores,” the source said, noting that cameras are strategically placed in high-theft areas.

Protecting public properties is difficult and “best practices are still evolving,” said Janice Ochenkowski, managing director of global risk management for Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. in Chicago.

“The best response is to apply standard risk management protocols and implement them to respond to various types of events through various practices,” she said.

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Risk managers should understand their geographic area, along with the risk profile of the building, its owners and tenants, Ms. Ochenkowski said.

And crisis response plans should account for the unpredictable nature of a violent attack.

One best practice is to closely monitor world events that might affect an organization, and perform tabletop exercises that test crisis plans with staff, security and local emergency responders, Ms. Ochenkowski said.

For high-profile properties such as Wall Street in New York, physical, electronic and communications security often is required in leases, said Paul Michael Viollis, CEO of Risk Control Strategies Inc. in New York.

“There's a huge disparity with respect to best practices as you look at public places,” he said, noting that spaces that have open levels of security such as college campuses, shopping malls and movie theaters, have a different culture of security and “create the greatest challenge.”

“There's a business case (where) you have to marry the complexities and the requirements of security to the business model itself and the required revenue stream. That's much more challenging,” Mr. Viollis said.

Retailers can create policies around employee training to spot suspicious incidents and individuals, and make sure electronic surveillance systems are properly monitored, he said.

To minimize the effects on employees and productivity after a violent attack, organizations should devise a post-crisis management plan, said Bob VandePol, president of Crisis Care Network in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“It's important to have a plan in place and exercise that plan so that you have significant muscle memory that enables the plan to be activated without adding additional chaos and confusion to the lives of those who already had that happen to them,” Mr. VandePol said.

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